Children of Mana
|Children of Mana|
North American box art
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing game|
Children of Mana, originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu DS: Children of Mana (Japanese: 聖剣伝説DS CHILDREN of MANA Hepburn: Seiken Densetsu DS: Chirudoren obu Mana?, lit. "Legend of the Sacred Sword DS: Children of Mana"), is a 2006 action role-playing game for the Nintendo DS. It was developed by Square Enix and Nex Entertainment, and published by Square Enix and Nintendo. It is the sixth game of the Mana series, following the 2003 Sword of Mana, and the first game of the World of Mana subseries of games. Set in a high fantasy universe, the game follows one of four young heroes as they journey to defeat the spread of monsters connected to the Tree of Mana, and to discover the secrets behind the cataclysm that killed members of their families.
While incorporating action role-playing elements from the prior games in the series, such as real-time battles, Children of Mana has its own distinct style of gameplay. Unlike previous games in the series, which were more typical action role-playing games, Children is a dungeon crawler, and the majority of the gameplay takes place in selected locations. Combat is more action-oriented than previous titles, and the game incorporates local multiplayer. Both the main plot and side quests involve fighting through multiple floors of randomly-generated dungeons to defeat a boss monster at the end before returning to the central Mana Village.
Children of Mana was designed by series creator Koichi Ishii, directed by Yoshiki Ito, and produced by Takashi Orikata and Katsuji Aoyama. The elements of the game were designed to highlight the action focus of the game, and to promote a sense of fun chaos in the cooperative multiplayer mode. The game had moderate sales, selling 100,000 copies in its first week of release. Reviews were mixed. Critics praised the graphics and music, calling them beautiful and unique. Reviewers found the combat fun but simplistic, however, which was aggravated by the repetitive gameplay and what they felt was an insubstantial story.
Like previous games in the Mana series, Children of Mana displays a top-down perspective, in which the player characters navigate the terrain and fight off hostile creatures. The player controls the unnamed main character, chosen from one of four options. Each of the character options have different numerical attributes, representing their different skills with weapons or magic. The game plays out nearly identically regardless of which character is chosen, except for a few quests which are specific to each option. Unlike previous games in the series, the main character typically has no companions during the game; a multiplayer option is present, however, for up to four players to play through the game together, all appearing on each others' screens. This multiplayer mode is only present with local WiFi, and progress is only saved on the host player's game.
Unlike previous games in the series, which were more typical action role-playing games, Children of Mana is a dungeon crawler, and the majority of the gameplay takes place in selected locations. The player selects these areas on the world map to reach them. The primary objective in each location is to clear the dungeon of monsters. Each dungeon is divided into different floors, and to progress between each zone the player must find an item called called a Gleamdrop, then carry it to a pillar of light called a Gleamwell. The player must repeat this process on each floor of the dungeon until the last floor is reached, where the boss monster lies. When not clearing dungeons, the player stays in the Mana Village, which contains shops to purchase equipment. Dungeons can be returned to later by accepting quests from townsfolk in the Dudbear shop. During these quests the dungeon itself is slightly altered: the player's starting position may be different, the number of floors can increase, and the monsters contained may change. Like the main quests, Dudbear quests involve clearing the dungeon of monsters, sometimes to acquire an item from the end of the dungeon.
The game retains the real-time battle mechanics of previous games in the Mana series. The game sports four weapons with their own unique abilities: sword, flail, bow & arrow, and hammer. The player may wield one or two weapons at a time, and any of the four character options can use any weapon. Each weapon has standard normal attacks, special attacks, and fury attacks. The fury attacks are the strongest and require a full Fury Gauge to use, which is filled by striking enemies with standard attacks and taking damage from enemies. Different weapons can have different effects on the environment, such as the hammer's ability to smash pots. In addition to weapons, the player can select from one of eight Elementals, which provide different magical attacks and magical enhancements to weapon attacks. The player can switch between Elementals in the Mana Village. Elemental attacks can be made stronger by equipping Gems, which can also boost the player's attributes.
Children of Mana takes place in the world of Fa'diel, split into the five continents of Jadd, Topple, Wendell, Ishe, and Lorimar, as well as the island of Illusia. At the center of that island, the beginning point of the game, stands the Tree of Mana. Several years ago an event known the "great disaster" took place at the base of the Mana Tree and many lives were lost. During this event, a brave young boy and girl used the Sword of Mana to save the world from disaster. Now, a group of orphans sets out to investigate the details of the event that killed their families.
The four major characters of Children of Mana are Ferrik, Tamber, Poppen, and Wanderer. They all live together in the Mana Village, near the Mana Tree. Ferrik is a fifteen-year-old boy who is said to be brave, bright and cheerful. He lost his parents and sister in the great disaster. After his life was saved by a knight, he has been honing his skills with the sword. Tamber is a sixteen-year-old girl, with a sense of truth and justice, and an air of maturity about her. She lost her parents and little brother due to the great disaster. Tamber's weapon of choice is the bow. Poppen is a nine-year-old boy, who is stubborn and fearless. He lost his mother at birth and his father in the great disaster. Poppen's weapon of choice is the flail. Wanderer is a traveling merchant, a tradition kept throughout the series. He is a member of the Niccolo tribe of rabbit/cat people. Wanderer's weapon of choice is the hammer.
One day, following a flash of light, the stone at the base of the Mana Tree cracks, distorting time and space. Whichever of the four characters the player chose recalls that their friend Tess, who is a priestess, went to the Mana Tower to pray, and goes to find her. After reaching the tower with an Elemental in tow, the hero finds the tower is infested with monsters. Upon fighting their way to the top of the tower, the hero finds Tess, frightened but unharmed. Suddenly, a giant flaming bird descends upon the two. The hero attempts to fight it, but finds that the bird is protected by a sort of barrier. A sword then falls from the sky, causing the bird's shield to fade away and allowing the hero to slay the beast. When the bird is defeated, a mysterious man garbed in black appears and attempts to take the Holy Sword, which is still stuck in the ground, but finds that it is protected by a barrier. The man disappears, and the hero takes the Holy Sword, which turns out to be the fabled Sword of Mana.
Upon returning from the Mana Tower, the hero discovers that three mysterious pillars of light have struck in the lands of Topple, Jadd, and Lorimar. The hero, after they are asked by the leaders of the village, investigates these places and finds dungeons full of monsters with a huge monster at the end. After their three tasks are completed, the mysterious man appears once again, identifying himself as the Mana Lord. He steals the Sword of Mana and causes a large storm in the land of Wendel. The hero journeys there to stop the Mana Storm by confronting the Mana Lord. When the Mana Lord is about to kill the hero, a group of gems appear around him to prevent his attack. He decides to instead kidnap Tess and vanishes.
After returning to the Mana Village, the hero heads for the Path of Life under the roots of the Mana Tree. At the end of the Path, the hero finds the Mana Lord waiting. Upon his defeat, the Mana Lord reveals that he was one of the two children of Mana who had saved the world during the great disaster, and rather than trying to hurt anyone he was simply trying to fulfill the reason he was created: "to fill the world with the power of Mana." He tells the hero that the other child of Mana is spreading disaster through the world, and must be stopped. He proceeds to give the Sword of Mana to the hero, then commits suicide by throwing himself off a cliff. This shift in power causes a rift to open in the sky, where the second child of Mana is waiting. The hero destroys this second child, the Scion of Mana, restoring the world to peace.
In the aftermath, Tess and the Elementals are entrusted with care of Illusia, while everyone else must leave. Moti says that Illusia will be protected as a haven, and that humans won't return for many more years. They make for Jadd, to start a new life in a new world.
In 2003, Square Enix began a drive to begin developing "polymorphic content", a marketing and sales strategy to "[provide] well-known properties on several platforms, allowing exposure of the products to as wide an audience as possible". The first of these was the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, and Square Enix intended to have campaigns for other series whereby multiple games in different genres would be developed simultaneously. Although no such project for the Mana series was announced yet, it was announced in late 2004 that an unnamed Mana game was under development for the impending Nintendo DS. In early 2005, Square Enix announced the World of Mana project, which would be the polymorphic content campaign for the series and include several games with different genres and platforms. The games, like the rest of the series, would not be direct sequels or prequels to each other, even when they appeared to be, but instead share thematic connections. The first release of the project and the sixth release in the Mana series was announced in September 2005 to be Children of Mana for the DS.
Children of Mana was developed by Nex Entertainment, who had previously developed dungeon crawl games in the Shining series, in collaboration with Square Enix. It was designed by series creator Koichi Ishii, directed by Yoshiki Ito, and produced by Takashi Orikata and Katsuji Aoyama. The game features an opening cinematic by acclaimed anime studio Production I.G. The intended direction of the game was to be an "action game" for the Nintendo DS. Ishii was especially focused on creating a truly cooperative multiplayer game, which he had wanted to do since Secret of Mana, the second game in the series. Despite this, he chose to not use the Nintendo Wi-Fi function of the DS, in order to make an experience where players would play with people around them, rather than remotely, similar to the limited multiplayer in Secret of Mana. He also designed the multiplayer to create a sense of chaotic excitement, where the players could interact without focusing on the difficulty or competing against each other. Several of the design choices for the game were meant to focus the game more on the action components, such as the way attacks send enemies flying across the screen, and the use of the controller buttons and stylus. The idea of using a randomly generated dungeon crawl mechanic was also to this aim, which was meant to make the game a "fun-for-all action type game". Although Ishii has said that the games in the series are only thematically connected, he has also stated in an interview that Children is set ten years after the 2007 game Dawn of Mana, which depicts the events of the cataclysm.
|Seiken Densetsu DS: Children of Mana Original Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Kenji Ito, Masaharu Iwata, Takayuki Aihara|
|Released||May 9, 2006|
|Genre||Video game soundtrack|
The score for Children of Mana was composed by Kenji Ito, Masaharu Iwata, and Takayuki Aihara. Ito had previously composed the music for the first game in the Mana series, the 1991 Final Fantasy Adventure, as well as its 2003 remake Sword of Mana, the last game in the series to be released prior to Children. This was the first soundtrack in the Mana series to feature work by Iwata or Aihara, though Iwata had previously worked for Square Enix on dozens of titles. The music of the game covers a range of musical styles including rock and roll, jazz, and classical orchestra. The instruments themselves, however, due to the limitations of the Nintendo DS hardware, have been described by Chris Greening of Square Enix Music Online as not "especially aesthetic or realistic". The soundtrack album Seiken Densetsu DS: Children of Mana Original Soundtrack collects 33 tracks of music from Children of Mana on two discs, and contains almost one and a half hours of music. It was published by Square Enix on May 9, 2006 on the Japanese iTunes Store, but has not been released as a physical album.
Children of Mana sold almost 103,000 units on its first 3 days on sale in Japan—between March 2 and March 5—which was considered below expectations and partially blamed on product shortages for the Nintendo DS. Children of Mana received mixed reviews from critics, with numerical scores as low as 58 out of 100 and as high as 90 out of 100. The game's presentation was praised, especially its graphics; Greg Mueller of GameSpot said that "the saving grace of Children of Mana is the appealing visual style of the game." Raymond Padilla of GamesRadar praised the "beautiful and unique art style", and 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish said that the graphics were "almost painfully cute". IGN's Mark Bozon and RPGFan's Neal Chandran compared the game to a painting and a storybook. The music was also praised; IGN's Bozon called it "pretty stunning", RPGFan's Chandran called it "quite good", and GameSpot's Mueller said it "fits the tone of the game very well".
Critics such as Mueller of Gamespot were generally more negative about the gameplay, finding it repetitive. He claimed that there was "no break from the monotony of dungeon clearing", while Rob Fahey of Eurogamer said the game was repetitive and uninspiring. The review from GamePro concluded that "the downfall of Children of Mana is its repetitiveness," and Chandran of RPGFan felt that most players would be sick of the gameplay before finishing half of the game. The reviewers from the Japanese Shūkan Famitsū magazine, while giving the game a notably high score, still noted that the gameplay could be considered insufficient compared to prior titles in the series. Bozon of IGN, while giving the game a more positive review than many others, felt that the thinness of the gameplay was bolstered by the multiplayer component, saying that "the game's entertainment value goes up in leaps and bounds during multiplayer", a point with which Fahey of Eurogamer agreed to a lesser extent.
In addition to the general dungeon-clearing gameplay, the combat itself was criticized by reviewers like Padilla of GamesRadar, who said that "the weapon use is the most disappointing facet of this game". Both Fahey of Eurogamer and Mueller of Gamespot felt that the combat, while initially fun, quickly became boring due to the simplicity. Chandran of RPGFan added that magic spells were too slow to be useful in combat, further reducing the complexity of the gameplay. Chandran and the GamePro review both also criticized the "sparse and slow" story, while Eurogamer's Fahey dismissed it as "a gossamer-thin layer which tries and fails miserably to hold everything together" and nothing more than several role-playing game clichés stuck together. Padilla of GamesRadar concluded that while the game had several good elements, it ultimately failed to live up to its potential as a Mana game.
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